Probiotics: Gut health, the immune system and anxiety. 

It’s not easy to narrow down this topic. Its importance is barely known but what we do know is impossible to ignore. As early as birth, we are ingesting probiotics. In a human woman who is pregnant, her vaginal micro-flora (vaginal bacteria) change over the course of the 9 months and around birth the baby is born essentially covered in Lactobacillus some of which the baby will ingest. This prepares the baby to ingest colostrum (first milk from the mother) and be able to digest it, use these nutrients properly. This is one of the many arguments favoring vaginal birth over C section birth. 

Ok, say you or your child/ pet are born vaginally, you’re microbiome (gut bacteria) are fine, right? Wrong. Gut bacteria are susceptible to a myriad of insults including fluorinated/ chlorinated water, antibiotics, antibacterial soap, agricultural chemicals and herbicides, pollution, etc. 

So what do I do? It’s actually pretty simple. Give your pet a hight quality probiotic AND AND AND feed that probiotic the food it needs to thrive in the gut (pre biotic foods).  If you take a probiotic but it doesn’t have what it needs to live and thrive in the gut, what do you think happens? It dies. I’ll do my best to keep it simple and make some general recommendations. Of course it’s best to have a consultation with me so we can discuss your pet’s specific history, problems and disease so we can see what probiotic they should be receiving. 

What you need to know is what to give your dog or cat, right? Each strain you read on the back of the probiotic bottles has a different “address” in the gut (i.e. small intestine, colon, etc). Each has a different effect on health as well. Here are some that I recommend making sure are present in the probiotic you are giving your pet. And please remember, when you are dealing with supplements, brand matters. NO supplements have a specific regulation the way drugs are regulated by the FDA. 

    1. Bifidum longum – this helps with stress management, possibly anxiety, serotonin levels. Did you know that 90% of circulating serotonin is made in a healthy gut? This is a probiotic that is featured in some of the new calming foods. Read on to see what’s best, feeding this food or giving a probiotic. 
    1. Lacobacillus plantarum: If you have an apple tree and you go into the back yard, pick an apple, and eat it, this probiotic is likely being ingested. Current times, however, the apples we ingest have been washed, waxed etc etc. 
    1. Lactobacillus acidophilus: this can aid in weight loss, prevention of obesity and prevention of diabetes mellitus. 
    1. Bacillus strains live primarily in the colon so if there is “colitis” currently or in your pet’s history consider a probiotic that contains these strains. Bacillus subtillus B6 strain has been found to eliminate (kill) salmonella and/or clostridium in some studies. 

Another key point is these strains need to be alive and in very high concentration to be able to colonize in the gut of your pet. The brands that will be listed below have this ability. I have some doubts about a highly processed food that is in delivery trucks, on shelves of retail stores or clinics being able to maintain live active probiotic cultures. You can also look at the cost comparison of a good product like Visbiome that has these strains in large enough quantities to make a difference vs the cost of this food. I’m not saying that it can’t be done, but I much prefer a probiotic that has been proven beneficial that arrives to my door in a cooler with an indicator strip that it never got over unsafe temperatures during it’s delivery route. (Visbiome). 

And lastly, you need to feed the good bacteria once they are in the intestines/ colon. This is what you have heard about ‘pre biotic foods.’ These are the foods these beneficial bacteria need in order to thrive in your pets intestines and make a difference in their health, immune system and serotonin levels. I recommend one of these foods being fed at the time of ingestion of a probiotic: 

Steel cut oats (cooked according to label directions) 

Apple (raw)

Beta Glucan found in medicinal mushrooms, whole oats (mushroom wisdom is my favorite brand) 

Psyllium (powder form of fiber, choose organic if possible) 

You only need about 1 tbsp per 20 # of pet given with their probiotics. Most pets like oat meal added to their food so this is a pretty easy one. 

Recommended products. 

  1. Visbome regular strength ( This is a human product I have been using for several years in dogs and cats. It came recommended by three different internal medicine specialists including one that has worked at both the university of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine and UGA’s CVM as well (Dr. Joe Bartges). There is a Visbiome for pets now that is only available through veterinarians who carry it in their hospital or online pharamcy. For example if you are a Case Veterinary Hospital client, you may order it from the online pharmacy here:   Again, the human product is available online   *** regardless of where you get this product it should arrive to you refrigerated. For this reason they only ship during the early parts of the week to ensure it doesn’t end up outside all weekend if someone cannot receive it. 
  1. Proviable by Nutramax. This company does a very good job with pet supplements. It’s not enough for them to use superior sources of their products but they go the extra mile in making sure pets can absorb and use the contents of these supplements. It’s likely your vet keeps this in stock or you can get it through their online pharmacy. 

In summary, if you’re looking for something to improve your pets quality and quantity of life and you don’t have them on one of the above probiotics, make this change! It’s ok to finish the product you are currently using but consider one of these as your next probiotic choice. I can attest to the human form of the Visbiome helping with my own GI and overall health. I order 2 bottles so  in my house whether you have 2 legs or 4, you’re getting a Visbiome along with a pre biotic food every day.  Consider a consultation to discuss all supplements that could benefit your pet. It’s common when I see new patients to tweak a few things, offer a better / multi – use product that can replace others you are using etc.